This Island, a Leo Hurwitz film - directed and edited by Leo with co-editor Peggy Lawson and cameraman Manfred Kirchheimer - is a film about a museum: The Detroit Institute of Art. But, This Island isn’t just about a museum. It’s about discovering the meaning in art; and that requires looking deeply and openly to see what is there. If we let him, Leo Hurwitz has a few things to teach us about seeing. We are witnesses to that fact as we watch all his films. Light and the City and Discovery in a Landscape in his The Art of...

John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1917 – 1963) was assassinated in Dallas, Texas on November 22. 1963. I was sixteen years old when his murder was announced over the loud speaker in my high school English class. School was dismissed. I walked home along the train tracks with a close friend, both of us shaken by the suddenness of death. Leo Hurwitz’s Essay On Death speaks to death’s randomness. Of course, JFK’s murder wasn’t random, but the fact that death can come out of nowhere at any time means that we live constantly with the fragility of life. At the same time, we...

Leo Hurwitz’s film, Here At The Water’s Edge, features the 1960 New York City’s waterfront. Made with photographer Charles Pratt, the film is a cinematic poem to the people who work on the water. Pratt, who largely financed the film, made it possible for Leo to use his vision as an artist and filmmaker while the blacklist still over-shadowed his life and ability to work in other areas. Here At The Water’s Edge, a film without narration, draws our attention to the often-neglected life in, on and around water – as well as bringing into view what workers on the...

Forgetting is a dangerous thing. Yet we sometimes forget when remembering is too painful. Because we can’t, or don’t want to remember, history repeats itself. Freud knew this well when he discovered the repetition compulsion. But, I think the endnote of Leo Hurwitz’s The Museum and The Fury is the best reason for remembering. If we forget: “History is the echo of an angry scream.” Leo Hurwitz was meticulous about truth. He never forgot, even when the immediacy of the horrors of WWII were behind us. He knew (and he would see the dangers now in 2017) that many in our...

The Young Fighter begins with a tough Brooklyn narrator’s voice. Tough as the boxing world is tough, tough as Ray Drake’s manager and trainer are tough; tough as the decision Ray Drake had to make. Would he become the Champ his manager and trainer were bent on making, or the family man he also wanted to be? And, why did it have to be an either/or choice? In the fighting world, with the necessity of financial backing for the slightest chance at success, who owns Ray Drake - him or THEM? These questions are the centerpiece of Leo Hurwitz’s The Young...

Leo Hurwitz’s powerful 1948 WWII documentary with its ironic title Strange Victory explores this question: “If we won, why do we look as if we lost? And, if Hitler died, why does his voice still pursue us through the spaces of America’s life?” It is a very strange victory to be sure – when we successfully fight the violent effects of discrimination and persecution in Germany but come home to open expressions of hate in our own country. Why can’t we seem to solve it? Leo’s film gives us vital clues to hate’s tenacity as well as the purpose that...

Memories and fantasies originating in childhood influence the course of a life as it unfolds. So do childhood experiences. If someone has a strong creative spirit, as Leo Hurwitz did, these impressionable early times find powerful forms of expression in their creative work. This is certainly true for Leo. Leo’s films speak for those abandoned by the societies they live in and for those who have no voice. We already know Leo’s family of origin had a strong social conscience. Yet, what are some of the personal, early, even unconscious sources leading to Leo’s passion? Thanks to direct quotes from family...

Leo Hurwitz (1909 – 1991), pioneer documentary filmmaker, was part of a small group who founded America’s documentary film and invented the social documentary form. According to his son, Tom Hurwitz, Leo’s films “exemplified a new way of making films about the real world, and about ideas that help us to understand it. He and his group saw these films as an antidote to the films of Hollywood that gave the audience dreams of escape.” Leo’s films spoke to various human rights concerns; problems he became aware of, early in his life, growing up in his socially conscious family. Leo...